I'd love some feedback and suggestions, if anyone has any.
My ds (5 years old) and I are going through a stressful transition (divorce), so I'm very clear that some conflict will be likely because of it. However, lately ds is really inclined to pull the kind of "oh yeah, well then I will/won't do xyz" and it's often some kind of threat of destruction/refusal to cooperate. I've been having trouble lately with feeling really frustrated about repeating myself multiple times, politely, when something is going on that I need to have happen differently. As an example, toothbrushing. Ds brushes in the a.m., I brush for him at night. When I brush his teeth, there are some nights when he repeatedly bites down on the toothbrush really hard so that I can't brush. I've explained that it ruins the bristles, and that I can't brush when he's biting. Also, by the end of the day, I'm really ready to get through our bedtime routine. So after repeatedly asking him to stop biting the brush, I have said to him that I don't like repeating myself and feeling unheard, so I'm not going to ask for something more than three times, and then I'm done. As was the case tonight, I asked three times and he was still biting the brush, so I said, "Ok, I'm done, now you can brush your teeth." At which point I start to hear stuff like, "Well I won't do it and you can't make me," and, "If you won't brush my teeth then I'll use my magic to xyz..." True enough I can't make him. I reply as neutrally as possible that it's time for bed and teeth need to be brushed so the sugar germs don't make his teeth sick, etc.
A similar example that I'm still feeling conflicted about; we were at a children's play, and I had repeatedly asked him to stop several behaviors that were not completely unruly, but disruptive, and he wouldn't, so finally I just said that since he wasn't able to listen, it was time for us to go. Cue massive fit. I spoke to him calmly about how I had repeated my requests multiple times, and he was not able to listen, so we were leaving. I had to carry him out with him kicking and sort of hitting at me and breaking my necklace (this kid never threw fits as a toddler, though around three he sometimes got really angry). This choice of mine was met with more "you can't make me..." and "oh yeah, well, then I'll do this..." kind of stuff.
I'm deeply concerned about handling this well for his benefit. His father is encouraging a lot of the revenge sort of scenarios and has been disruptive and inappropriate about divorce details/me (x blames me for everything from the fall of Rome to the recession, basically, and is given to substance abuse and dishonesty, among other things) in front of ds. I'm feeling like I need to be really clear about limits, but I want to also be compassionate and clear, not arbitrary. I think it's important for ds to feel some empowerment through this process, but at the same time, I don't think I'm doing him any favors if I become totally passive and without boundaries, which is what I suspect is mostly going on when he is with his father--or everything is turned into a joke or a game, which can be useful in some circumstances, I think, but I also think there have to be some clear boundaries--maybe my thinking on that is off.
Like I said, any suggestions would be welcome. I've read pretty much the whole a.p. pantheon, and I just pulled out my copies of How to Listen... and Parent Effectiveness Training. I'm thinking I'd like to get my hands on Playful Parenting, it's basically the only one I haven't read.